Cattle Ranches Offer Hope for Grassland Birds.

Author:Gonzalez, Nicolas
Position:THE ENVIRONMENT
 
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"Each year, more and more of North America's grasslands and prairies disappear under the plow, while our changing climate will only further squeeze the birds of this misunderstood landscape."

THE "North American Grasslands & Birds Report," published by the National Audubon Society, offers an analysis of climate change vulnerabilities and land-use threats facing grassland bird species dependent on the tallgrass, mixed grass, and shortgrass prairies in the U.S. and Canada, as well as the Chihuahuan grasslands in Mexico.

Under the current carbon emissions scenario, 42% of grassland bird species will become highly vulnerable by the end of this century. That number drops to eight percent if global emissions reductions surpass targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, from which Pres. Donald Trump has withdrawn the U.S.

To help prioritize conservation action across this imperiled ecosystem, the report identifies "climate strongholds" in North America that will provide the best habitat for declining grassland birds under all climate change scenarios and ongoing land conversion. Given that approximately 85% of remaining grasslands are found on private lands, ranchers and other private landowners will be key stakeholders in grassland bird conservation.

"Each year, more and more of North America's grasslands and prairies disappear under the plow, while our changing climate will only further squeeze the birds of this misunderstood landscape," says Brian Trusty, vice president of the Central Flyway. "The good news is that we know exactly where we need to focus, who we need to work with, and how we can save this irreplaceable and quickly vanishing ecosystem."

The report begins with a peer-reviewed assessment of the vulnerability of 38 grassland bird species under three different climate change scenarios representing a 1.5[degrees]C, 2.0[degrees], and 3.0[degrees] increase in global mean temperature. Each species was given a vulnerability score--neutral, low, moderate, or high--based on how much habitat the species was projected to lose versus its adaptive capacity to make up for those losses. Underscoring the urgent need to reduce emissions and protect existing habitat, three species are considered highly vulnerable under any scenario: Henslow's Sparrow, Mc-Cown's Longspur, and Baird's Sparrow.

"For grassland birds to have the best shot at survival, we need to get serious about climate change and immediately reduce carbon pollution. At the same time...

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